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Can Cracking Your Knuckles Cause Arthritis?

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
DAVID MARKS, MD: Hi and welcome to our webcast. I'm Dr. David Marks. Thank you all for sending in your questions about arthritis. We're going to try to answer them on this webcast.

Joining me to do that is Dr. Allan Gibofsky, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Cornell, and a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Thanks for helping us out.

Let's take the first question here. "Okay, it's time for the facts. I've always heard that popping your knuckles, neck, wrists, etc., will lead to arthritis. I've also heard lately that it's a myth. I would like to know if there are any direct connections, or if the actual effects of popping your bones can or cannot cause arthritis."

ALLAN GIBOFSKY, MD: First of all, the word arthritis is like the word automobile; what make, what model, what color, what options. There are a hundred different forms of joint disease that come under the title of arthritis as the lay person uses it.

The kind of arthritis that our questioner is asking about would be degenerative arthritis. The result of stressing your joints through an unusual arc of motion. Doing things like this on a repeated basis. There is really no good evidence that cracking ones knuckles leads to or causes arthritis or makes arthritis worse.

When one cracks ones knuckles, what is happening is that gas that is in the fluid of the joint is being rapidly released and popping against the closed container of the joint. When that happens, you hear that pop. Several minutes later, that gas goes back into the joint fluid, and that's why people can crack their knuckles again and again.

So no David, cracking ones knuckles does not cause arthritis, but it doesn't help it either.

DAVID MARKS, MD: Okay. You don't recommend it.

ALLAN GIBOFSKY, MD: I don't.

DAVID MARKS, MD: Thank you for your questions, and thank you for joining our webcast. I'm Dr. David Marks. Goodbye.

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